By Alexa Epitropoulos | [email protected]
Northern Virginia natives Jeff Sapsford and Stevie Treichel visited the Del Ray neighborhood often while growing up.
The duo is returning years later with a concept: a craft beer and wine emporium. The store, called Department of Beer and Wine, opens tomorrow at 2724 Jefferson Davis Highway in Tony’s Corner at Potomac Yard.
As the name suggests, the Department of Beer and Wine will serve a wide selection of craft beer and wine at the 1,511 square foot storefront, with a heavy focus on all things local, regional and Virginia. Treichel said the store aims to be accessible, accommodating customers who want to pick up a 12-pack of Stella on their way home and more daring beer fans who want the newest limited release available.
The store will offer 22 taps, which will rotate between craft beer and select wines, and will sell growlers and 32-ounce crowlers.
The store offers many of the bigger names in craft beer, including Stone Brewing, Uinta Brewing and Ommegang Brewery. Local breweries like Shaw’s Right Proper Brewing Co. will also be frequent guests on Department of Beer and Wine’s tap list. The store will also offer snacks, ranging from foreign and exotic candy to, eventually, grab-and-go food like frozen pizza – something Sapsford’s wife, Melissa Sapsford, oversees.
The decision to open a craft beer store in Potomac Yard came from years of working together in the industry on both coasts. Sapsford and Treichel were always fans of craft beer and both previously worked at Norm’s Beer & Wine in nearby Vienna. Another prior stop was in Los Angeles’ Echo Park neighborhood, where Sapsford was the general manager at Sunset Beer Co. and where Treichel also worked.
Family brought Sapsford and Treichel back to Virginia. When Sapsford, who was working as
an adjunct professor at George Mason University and part-time at Norm’s, came back to Del Ray, it wasn’t the neighborhood he recognized from his childhood. It was growing quickly and, though it had several restaurants and bars with plentiful craft beer and wine options, it lacked a store that offered the same options as Norm’s or Sunset. That’s when Sapsford realized there was an opportunity.
“Potomac Yard wasn’t here when I left,” Sapsford said. “When I came back, I thought ‘there isn’t a beer store there? I want to open one.’”
“It was a good fit because, growing up, I came over here often. So this was familiar territory,” Treichel said. “I moved right down the street, so now I’m here all the time.” Community was a major selling point for Sapsford and Treichel, who both live in Alexandria.
They took note of how Del Ray responded after Al’s Steakhouse suffered a devastating fire on the day it reopened under new leadership. It reminded them of the support Norm’s Beer & Wine owner Norm Yow had received in 2011, when a Fresh Market store moved into the same shopping plaza Norm’s had occupied for years, which threatened to close Norm’s due to a non-compete clause from Fresh Market.
“The community really rallied around [Norm’s],” Sapsford said. “It seemed like the same kind of community here.”
Sapsford and Treichel signed the lease in December 2016 and, while they initially planned to open within a few months, build out delays pushed their opening date to late summer.
Now as they approach their soft opening, Sapsford and Treichel, who will operate the
business as co-owners, look forward to getting settled in. Their former employer, Norm Yow, has even joined the new business with a small ownership stake.
The store will be open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m.
to 6 p.m. on Sundays, though Sapsford and Treichel said that might change down the road.
They plan to host regular wine and beer tastings on most Fridays and Saturdays. There are also plans in place for tap takeovers, where a particular brewery will put a spotlight on their beers for the evening, and for outside yoga classes in the breezeway at Tony’s Corner.
The two say that what they look forward to most is making a family out of the staff at Department of Beer and Wine – something they experienced at Norm’s and Sunset. That process is already beginning: they just hired their first employee.
“We want to get our name out there. We want to be a pillar in the community,” Treichel said. “Norm’s is a staple – we want to become like that. We want to get to know people’s names and learn the customer.”
“We’re looking forward to developing as a family,” Sapsford said.